Thursday, March 8, 2007

They don't call him "The Natural" for nothing

By Serene Thio

Making his way to the octagon with Aerosmith’s Back In The Saddle appropriately playing for his entrance, Randy Couture looked good; He looked conditioned, prepared, calm and ready to reclaim his title.

For weeks leading up to the fight, fans were torn between who they wanted to see win and who they actually felt would win - and I am proud to say I was in Randy’s corner the entire time, despite what naysayers and doubters were proclaiming.

After five rounds of complete domination, and I mean complete, Randy “The Natural” Couture walked out of the octagon hailed the Heavyweight champion for the third time in 10 years. Tim Sylvia returned to his corner defeated, taking with him a bloody nose and a face that was a swollen mess from Couture’s unrelenting fists.,

It was one hell of an exciting match that kept me on my feet for most of it. Anyone else who saw it can definitely attest to that. The first round began with Couture landing a right squarely in Sylvia’s face, and “The Natural” remained undoubtedly in control for the rest of the fight.

At the first take down, the crowd was on their feet. Couture continued to dominate each round, dealing a series of punches to Sylvia’s already bloody nose, and repeatedly took him down to the mat and dominated there as well. Sylvia spent the entire match dancing around defensively, not being able to execute a single offensive move on Couture, who demonstrated amazing technique in bobbing and weaving, dodging most of Sylvia’s punches throughout the night, making Couture’s set up to shoot in and clinch that much harder to anticipate.

Couture fought with the knowledge of an experienced fighter, knowing that one overeager and overconfident move could change the outcome of the fight. I suppose Sylvia was expecting to knock his opponent out in the fourth round or so, but it was obvious that The Natural was not having any of that.

Couture took his time with Sylvia, strategically working him in each round. Having the fight go all five rounds - with Couture in complete control of each one - left no room for anyone to even consider that his win was a fluke.

Now, I may have imagined this, but at one point, when Couture had Sylvia against the fence, working towards a brutal take-down, he actually looked into the audience and smiled! I kid you not!

Couture had previously commented on the Monson vs Sylvia fight in UFC 65, saying he had noted some holes in Sylvia’s techniques; Many fighters have made such comments, but it took someone like Couture to actually execute a strategy to work those observations into defeating Sylvia. I believe serving as a regular broadcast commentator at the fights provided him with a different perspective from that of a fighter.

Couture’s fight strategy was executed almost flawlessly. Any struggle that Sylvia put up was just a blip on Randy’s plan to dump him to the ground. For Sylvia, it was almost humiliating. Hell, it was humiliating.

I felt a little sorry for Sylvia until he offered a copout excuse for his loss after the fight, referring to an injury suffered previously. The crowd met the excuse with disgusted boos. Tim Sylvia was just winning points all over the place that night.

Now fans are speculating how the UFC plans to move forward in the Heavyweight division. After his phenomenal fight against Eddie Sanchez, Mirko Cro Cop looks to be the most formidable opponent. I’d love to see the UFC pair Cro Cop with Sylvia in his attempt to regain his title, and I’m sure many other fans will agree.

Aptly named, "UFC 68: The Uprising" was a definite feast for the senses. Couture has made a fight career out of surprising people and I’m glad to say this time was no different.

Serene Thio is a freelance writer who has trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kali and Muay Thai, and has been a fan of mixed martial arts since she watched the first UFC event in 1993. She has also attended and trained at seminars hosted by Renzo Gracie, Sylvio Behring and BJ Penn.


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